7.26.2012

Poetic City: City Poems

Many parents are familiar with Lois Lenski's books about characters named "Small" or "Little" transportation devices: Cowboy Small, Fireman Small, Policeman Small or The Little Fire Engine, The Little Train, ... you get the idea. Plus, her characteristic line drawings grace many a children's book, including her own Newbery Winner, Strawberry Girl.

In 1971, three years before her death, Lenski published City Poems, a collection of previously published and new poems about -- you guessed it -- the city. I actually found this collection in the adult, rather than the children's section of the library, but it is certainly appropriate for the younger set, which I suspect is the target audience anyway.

Lenski's poems are simple and while I would be hard pressed to call them brilliant, my three year old was quite taken with them, especially (and unsurprisingly) the ones about cars, trucks, subways and taxis. The poems (about 100 in total) address a wide range of urban topics, from litter in the street and smells on the fire escape to libraries and playing ball with dad. Some are quite serious -- poems about gangs or slums -- while others are quite whimsical -- poems about hot dogs or the zoo's bear conversing with the children. While the poems are descriptive and detailed about life in the city, I was sometimes surprised at their straightforwardness, particularly when it came to poems with rather stark themes. For example, a deceptively simple poem about a traffic accident in which a boy on a bike is injured ends with the mundane question, "How did Mom get here?"

The collection is divided into sections such as "I Like the City", "People in the City" and "My Home in the City." The book is long out of print but you might be able to find a copy at your library. I would definitely suggest it for older children who are interested in city life and parents of small children can find some more playful poems, such as those about swings and whirlygigs and hot dogs, to recite aloud.

Want More?
Read another review at The Brookeshelf.
The Kirkus Reviews was not very flattering, and I think, a little unfair.
Other poetry books you might like: A City Is, Sky Scrape/City Scape, City I Love, Mural on Second Avenue and Other City Poems.
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